House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was nations.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Manicouagan (Québec)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 18% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Aboriginal Affairs June 12th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, as the saying goes, where there is a will, there is a way.

In this case, the federal government clearly lacks political will, and the provinces are the ones showing the way. For example, Quebec recognized that residential schools were a form of cultural genocide against aboriginal nations. As a result, it is calling on the federal government to take action.

Will the federal government follow the example of these elected officials and show some leadership?

Aboriginal Affairs June 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, Cindy Blackstock is currently fighting the government to gain recognition for the injustice suffered by aboriginal children when it comes to social services. From what we have learned, rather than letting the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal do its job, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development was found guilty of having deliberately retaliated against Ms. Blackstock.

Is that how the Conservatives see reconciliation: punishing those who dare to criticize them?

Federal Port Facilities June 8th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, 11 ports and wharves in Manicouagan will be sold or ceded under the federal ports asset transfer program.

These facilities are necessary to the survival and economic development of municipalities in our region, especially those that are not accessible by road. They are used to provide coastal communities with food and fuel and are essential to the commercial fishery.

However, the federal government announced its transfer program without giving any clear and specific information about the funding to maintain and upgrade these facilities before they are transferred. Many municipalities want to ensure that the government will provide them with financial support since the facilities in question are old and outdated. We are therefore calling on the Minister of Transport to provide us with details about this as soon as possible.

Mining Industry June 5th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, three generations of my constituents worked at the Wabush mines, but now hundreds of retirees are no longer covered by the company's life and medical insurance, effective June 1, while the Wabush group is placed under the protection of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act. Some of my constituents spent their life working hard in the mine only to end up with nothing, not even medical insurance.

What is the government doing to protect these workers?

Aboriginal Affairs June 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, no one should have to rifle through garbage cans for food. Nevertheless, the Conservatives are refusing to own up to their mistakes. The Auditor General was very clear: nutrition north Canada did not have any effect on the price of food and the program is not being managed transparently. Fifty communities that should have received subsidies were excluded from the program.

Will the government vote in favour of our motion, work with all northerners and develop a sustainable solution to food insecurity?

Business of Supply June 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. Early in our mandate, he travelled with me to Nutshimit, the traditional territories.

We use the word menashtau to describe someone who is egotistical and does not want to share. It is quite a pejorative term—not something people wanted to be called 400 years ago.

Today, the traditional way of life is quite difficult. Natural resource development has affected the caribou's traditional migratory routes. We call the traditional way of feeding ourselves Innu Mitsham. In 2015, that way has become hazardous and is no longer as reliable. We need to re-evaluate everything because caribou are becoming scarcer.

Even though there are not many menashtau individuals in our communities and we share everything as much as possible, caribou are becoming scarcer because of the impact of hydroelectric projects and natural resource extraction on natural systems.

Business of Supply June 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent question. I would like to give a clear example about access to healthy food that some members will find mind-boggling.

Not too long ago I visited Chevery, and there was just one pineapple for the 200 residents. I do not know whether they held a raffle or drew straws to decide who would get a taste of pineapple that month, but that was all they had and they had to wait.

Relais Nordik, the shipping company that was supposed to bring in food, had been unable to do so because of winter and ice conditions. We had to wait for a plane to be able to land. The community does not have a guaranteed regular supply of food, and the store owner even considered closing down because the conditions were not economically viable and it was difficult to bring in supplies.

This is what many northern residents live with every day. I wanted to share that.

Business of Supply June 4th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who will surely address the economic changes that the NDP would make to the nutrition north Canada program.

Although I am quite familiar with those economic considerations, I am not necessarily going to speak about them. Instead, I am going to discuss the elements associated with food insecurity and its potential social implications.

The opportunity I have been given to support the motion by my colleague from Northwest Territories will allow me to talk in more detail about one of those elements in particular, and that is the need to work with all northerners to come up with a sustainable solution to food insecurity.

Those who are paying attention have seen that this study consists of three parts. The same is true of the speech I am going to give today. I am going to talk about collaborative work, northerners and food insecurity.

Strangely enough, over the past four years, we have sometimes talked about these three things together and sometimes individually. I have talked about them in my speeches and so have my colleagues. They are some of the current issues that best show what the Conservative government is all about.

The UN special rapporteur on the right to food has visited Canada in recent years, and I had the opportunity to meet with him. I also showed him some photos, including one of a two-litre bottle of pop on sale for $1 in July, on a remote reserve, Uashat.

Earlier, I heard my colleagues talk about subsidies for chips and Pepsi. These products are already available at very low prices in remote communities. Strangely enough, fast food lobby groups have this government's attention, and they find a way to reach these communities and bring in their products.

In the far north it is easy to find two-litre bottles of pop for $1 in July, but do not even think about finding two litres of milk at that price. The prices are ridiculous. There is a double standard here. Corporatism has really taken over.

Major corporations have control and can obviously afford to send their cheap products to remote regions. I do not know whether they are losing money in the process. However, fast food and processed foods end up making their way to the far north.

I want to come back to food insecurity. That is one of the things that was submitted to the UN rapporteur. When we talk about food security, that means a balanced, nutritious diet. In this case, I am also thinking about the children who are morbidly obese at a very young age. I do not know if that term can even apply to a child, but in any case, it is obvious that many children, often seen eating bags of chips, are overweight.

On my home reserve, you will find plenty of bags of chips. I worked for the territorial resources and parks services when I was younger. My job was to empty the outdoor garbage bins, and I can confirm that my garbage bags were often full of empty pop and chip containers. As soon as kids have a few bucks in their pockets, they go and buy chips. That is another aspect of food security. We need to ensure that balanced, nutritious food is available at affordable prices in remote communities.

The key question here regarding the legislative tool before us is wether the nutrition north Canada program is working. The program was implemented in April 2011 with the aim of making healthy food—and I want to emphasize the healthy food aspect—more accessible and more affordable for people living in remote, northern communities.

Even though we are talking about healthy food, we also need to understand that beer brewers are going to these communities too. Alcoholic beverages are available at very low cost. I mentioned that to the UN rapporteur because in my community, there are 1.2 litre products with 10% alcohol. Consuming such products really muddles people up for the rest of the day. Those products are very cheap. The beer brewers' lobby also has ways to reach remote communities.

Some segments of the industry have clearly found ways to make ends meet and get into those communities. Healthy food is also part of the calculation according to my analysis, and I mentioned that during a presentation by representatives of Beer Canada, who came to talk to me about a program to fight fetal alcohol syndrome. I told them that market studies had probably been done before making those products available for sale in remote communities.

Depending on the demographics of their neighbourhoods, I challenge my colleagues to find these products where they live. In my community, people call them bombs: 1.2 litres of 10% alcohol. My colleagues are highly unlikely to find this stuff at their corner store or supermarket, but where I come from, it is everywhere. People who are addicted to alcohol buy these products, and it wreaks havoc. It is pretty much everywhere in my community. I am quite sure that market studies were done on this.

In keeping with the corporatist ideals that have spawned too many of this government's initiatives, nutrition north Canada is a transfer payments program based on a market model. Let us draw a parallel with corporatism. I did not take much of an interest in policy before I came here. However, in recent years, what has emerged is that the government is trying to control and manage the country like a corporate entity. Too often the Conservatives—and possibly the Liberals—apply the same yardsticks, the same standards and the same ideals as a CEO who is managing a major corporation.

The government has a marked tendency to view public policy making like managing a corporate entity. The nutrition north Canada program is no exception. We see that the subsidies and programs that are supposed to help deliver and provide healthy food will first and foremost benefit the corporate entities rather than the people. That is the basis for the NDP position. We must ensure that the people and their nutrition are top of mind. The people must benefit, not the corporations. What we are seeing right now is that the corporations benefit the most and the people not as much.

The nutrition north Canada program has a fixed annual budget of $60 million, $53.9 million of which is allocated annually as a subsidy. That subsidy is paid directly to the food retailers, suppliers, distributors and processors in the north under contribution agreements. Was the word “citizen” included in that list? No, we are talking here about retailers, suppliers, distributors and processors, people who are already on a sound financial footing. One's financial footing also dictates one's ability to buy healthy food and eat properly. If a litre of milk costs $6, then families are going to buy a two-litre bottle of Pepsi to put on the table, as we are seeing in family homes in my riding. Pop will win out, because a litre of water or milk is too expensive. The choice is easy. Then comes the glucose and fructose and people develop diabetes. There is a correlation here. When we talk about healthy eating, all this socio-economic information has to be taken into account.

In closing, I want to mention the need for a comprehensive review of the nutrition north Canada program in co-operation with northerners in order to determine ways of directly providing the subsidy to northern residents and improve supports for traditional foods. The important part of what I just said was “in co-operation with northerners”. Therein lies the problem with the public policy in 2015. The government has often failed to consult the public. The Conservatives think that public consultation is a barrier to economic expansion. In this case, it would take time to consult the public regarding the review of the nutrition north Canada program, and some people feel like it would be too much work.

The industrial, food processing and fast food lobbies are likely not in favour of it either. Unlike community groups, we know that these major lobbies, these big pressure groups, have the government's ear.

The next government, an NDP government, will make sure that northerners are involved in the process so that the program is culturally relevant.

I submit this respectfully.

Aboriginal Affairs June 2nd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, this is the legacy of the residential schools: more than 150,000 children forced to abandon their culture and their language; thousands of cases of abuse, humiliation and heinous acts; mothers and fathers who never saw their children again after they were taken from their arms; more than 6,000 children dead—a mortality rate similar to that of the Second World War; and intergenerational trauma that is still present today.

We have a moral obligation to take action. Will the government finally show some leadership and support the first nations?

Aboriginal Affairs May 29th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' dismal record speaks for itself.

Here are a few of many examples. We have the Conservatives' refusal to properly fund education for aboriginal youth, their refusal to hold a national inquiry on the fate of 1,200 missing or murdered aboriginal women, and, lastly, their completely ineffective housing program. However, in 2008, the Prime Minister personally made a commitment to reconciliation.

Was his official apology for Indian residential schools just hot air?